April 2015 Entrepreneur Night (Focaccia)
07 May 15
“Pizza Al Taglio.” The Italian translates roughly to “by the cut,” or in this case, the slice. The three-word concept originated in Rome, one of Europe’s oldest and most prized cities, but has since spread across the rest of Italy. It’s a particular style of serving pizza.
Now it’s reached Palm Coast–a city not quite as coveted, but maybe one day–in more ways than one in the form of Focaccia: the site of April 2015 Entrepreneur Night.
With Focaccia, you never know what flavors might grace your palate–walnuts, honey, potato, Nutella–anything is possible with their squared pizza; each flavor unique in its own way.
The Entrepreneurs mingling in the patio outside their squared storefront were the same way!
“We’re authors so we’re not the typical entrepreneurs,” Dima says. They’d been to Entrepreneur Night before, but it’d been a couple of years. The first time it was mainly social. They were new to the area. That was maybe two years ago. But on April 28, they were in the market for a marketing person. Dima had been director of mobile development for Hearst Magazines, the umbrella publishing company behind Cosmopolitan among other prominent magazines. Anna had been a Wall Street portfolio manager.
What both had in common was that they were voracious readers. Anna covers Romance; Dima: Sci-Fi and Fantasy. One writes and the other edits. Both brainstorm. That’s how they do it.
It happened like this, Anna says.
“One Summer, I was just bored with everything I was reading so I was, like, alright, let me just like write something–that I’d want to read. So I said, I’m thinking of writing a book.”
Dima’s response? “Well, do it!”
“I was like, ‘Yeah, OK. Right.” Anna had never so much as written a short story. But you have to start somewhere. That’s true of all entrepreneurs and endeavors. “I started and then, like, all of a sudden, I was consumed,” she says.
No doubt, Anna had her doubts, but at least she had an idea.
She had a particular story in her head. A romance between an alien from an advanced civilization and a human girl. Five years in the future, after aliens had taken over Earth. “It’s like Columbus coming to America in some ways,” she says.
In two-and-a-half months they had a book. They published it. They formed a company. Books were selling–“a little bit.” They published a second one. After the second one, they saw they could live off this. While working on their third, they quit their day jobs and moved here.
Currently the have 11 books in English, as well as translations and audio books. In addition to his other talents, Dima also happens to be a mentalist. If you catch him at an event, ask for a complimentary demonstration of his mad skill. It’s a good marketing device at book signings, he says. “That way people really remember us.”
Moving on, to another duo at the Entrepreneur Night… Though they might have been a world away, though in reality it was only a matter of feet, were Bill Mills and Melissa Chipps, there on behalf of TBD Partners, an IT infrastructure company.
The five-year-old firm moved from Alabama to the area about a year ago when Bill and his wife bought the former partners out, making the company all theirs.
They had to change their own infrastructure in the process. Before this, they’d run the Southeast for a Fortune 500 company a number of years back.
“So now we’ve kind of consolidated that and started our own,” Bill says.
To say the new area has changed things would be an understatement. “It’s a completely different business for us,” he says. Before, they were used to running IT infrastructure for major companies in major cities, destinations like Atlanta, Dallas, and DC. “We don’t have those larger companies like that here. So we had to take that expertise and repackage that and serve it up as a service now to smaller and medium-sized companies.”
For them, this requires less project management than a monthly recurring revenue stream. “So that’s a big deal for us.
“What we found out was small businesses needs their IT to work just like big business. But they don’t have money, they don’t have IT staff, they don’t have all the expertise they’d like. But they need their desktop to work as good as a Fortune 500 company, don’t they? It’s just as important for the small business as the big business.”
The thing about small businesses is that the owners are hyper-focused on their business. They can’t be focused on their IT, Bill says. So TBD is all about the start-up, providing they’re just big enough to be profitable.
The next step is to get in touch with as many businesses as possible from Volusia up to Clay County. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to take care of people’s infrastructure,” Melissa says.
Jason Habali was one of many ancillary professionals on scene to help other people with their business. He was playing the part of coy investor. Habali sold his business, a Fort Lauderdale-based real estate investment trust, in November and has been cruising since. Originally from the Port Orange area, free from his business, he relocated back to the locale.
At Entrepreneur Night, he was looking to mix with some other business owners and was also keeping his eye out for what may come next.
Business owners are always looking for capital, he says. After enjoying his own success, he was looking to lend a hand to someone else, rather than starting something new.
“Starting a new business is hard, time-consuming. So I’m not really looking to do that at this point but maybe in the future.”
Although he was impressed with “Talk It,” the soon-to-hope-to-go-public app-company started by Curtis Ceballos, which is another frequent attendee at the Entrepreneur Night events, technology businesses scare him. The reason: it takes time for the money to come flowing in, he says.
Habali is looking for something a little smaller, he says. “I like businesses that are established, looking to grow, needing an injection of capital,” more so than cutting-edge.
Yet, there’s no ideal business, per se. “When you sell your business, and you exit, your options are more wide open,” he says. “I’m not in a hurry, kind of just taking my time, to see what’s out there.”
Another first-timer with an interesting story was Jose Ortiz–a carpenter. From an outsider’s perspective, that might seem a little blah. But don’t tell that Ortiz. Ortiz was an extremely successful New York City DJ a couple of decades back when New York City was still a rave party city. Oh, he had his fun.
Now he’s a carpenter in Palm Coast.
But that’s ok. His former, more glamorous life had become stale: he just didn’t feel inspired anymore.
There was just something that appealed to him about the humble craft of carpentry, though he couldn’t say what. After all, there’s at least been one famous carpenter through history.
One thing that stands out about Ortiz’s “Trimworks Plus: Interior Carpentry” is he can do things that other carpenters can’t, just like that other certain someone. Well maybe not quite…Though in his case, it comes down to possessing a very refined skill set when molding and manipulating something as stiff as wood.
“You got to figure those things out. I’ll give you an example: You’ve got a concrete wall and you’ve got to attach a sheet of plywood to it, right? But you can’t see any nails or screws. So what do you do? I make holes with a hammer drill. And I fill the holes with wood and now I have somewhere to nail my plywood to.
“You’ve got to make this stuff up as you go. You got to improv.“
He’s been in the area for 15 years and has enjoyed a lot success without ever advertising. Yet, he’d never attended Entrepreneur Night even though his girlfriend is the event ambassador. On this night he decided to show up, spur of the moment. He was enjoying himself. He’d met some good people.
Ky was looking for some custom cigar boxes for a new patented brand of cigars soon to come to the market. “He wants cigar boxes that are different, something different, because some people establish the value of a cigar based on the time and effort put into the box cigars are displayed and sold in,” Ortiz says. Something of extra custom quality. Something that doesn’t fit the mold of any old box.
While that’s not the typical kind of project Ortiz gets. “You know what, I do–everything,” he says.
When it comes to Al Taglio, you can’t leave out Alexia Tarantino and Dario Carbone, the Focaccia proprietors who relate their own powerful story of entrepreneurship. The couple moved to Palm Coast directly from Rome with the explicit intent of opening their street style restaurant–though it affects a different kind of look off Cypress Point Parkway than it would on a concourse just outside the Old Coliseum
“To do exactly this,” Alexia says.
That was a year and a half ago. Alexia’s family owned a rustic family-style restaurant back in Rome. They wanted to do something similar elsewhere, though with their own thumb-print.
When it comes to entrepreneurship, a few constants always remain the same. A definitive plan is one of them; passion is, of course, another. For Alexia and Dario, there was never a thought of doing something else. You also have to believe in the product.
“We didn’t know it was needed, but we knew it was different. We believe in the ingenuity of the product.”
“We knew it was different than the traditional New York and American-style pizza,” Dario says. There are a lot of New Yorkers and general Northerners who populate the area. Dario and Alexia calculated that this wide demographic probably wouldn’t mind something different.
The idea came to them as they attended University in England; they missed their food so much. And that was still in Europe. “So we thought opening on the other side of the world…”
Authors, investors, pizza creatives, IT specialists, carpenters, and mentalists. What other flavors will Entrepreneur Night attract next month at Terranova’s?
Here are some moments from the event:
Entrepreneur Night is a grassroots event for and by Entrepreneurs, which takes place the last Tuesday of each month – except July, August, and December at a different location and venue. It is free to attend. Complimentary appetizers are provided by the venue hosting the event as well as a cash bar. In each event you can expect to meet many new entrepreneurs, investors and service providers; and have meaningful conversations. You can check out the previous Entrepreneur Night events | or RSVP to the Next Entrepreneur Night Event